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  1. #1
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    1986 trek 1500... cracked frame?

    Hey guys,

    First post.

    Picked up a 1986 trek 1500 this past weekend. new tires& tubes, Updated shimano 600 shifters, derailleurs, brakes, etc. It needed a few tweaks and the spokes tightened up but was running well (as of monday). I rode it about 10 miles monday night with some friends. On tuesday morning I dropped it off at my LBS for their advertised $45 tune up. Includes cleaning, lube, adjustments, wheel trueing, air in the tires, etc. Just an overall tune up.

    Tuesday @ noonish I get a call saying that my frame is cracked. Later that afternoon, I pick the bike up. the LBS shows me where the frame is cracked under the seat. He thought he spotted another crack near the bottom of the frame but, quickly realized that it was only a crack in the paint from the manufacturing process. He explained that these old aluminum frame bikes were simply pressed together and after time the paint can crack at those joints (especially on a 26 year old bike).

    Long story short, he explained that the frame cracks were (for lack of better words) "distorting" the frame and preventing him from properly trueing the rear wheel. Told me the bike was not safe, don't ride it. bla, bla, bla. Then quickly directed me to towards the used bike section...

    I took the bike home (he didn't charge me anything) and soon realized that my rear wheel was WAY out of whack. When rolling it across the garage, the tire would hit on each side of the frame (swingarm?(sorry, I'm coming from the motorcycling world)) during rotation; so much that it would lock up the rear wheel. It was as crooked as can be, the tension on each spoke was different from the last, and the wheel was way out of round. As I stated earlier... 24 hours prior, this bike carried me 10 miles with no issues.

    I also took some sandpaper to those "frame cracks" only to reveal that they (like other places on the frame) were not cracks in the frame but, cracks in the paint due to that manufacturing process.

    at this point I was getting aggravated... I carried in a (admittedly "rough") fully functional bike only to have a completely unrideable bike returned to me.

    I took the the rear wheel back yesterday and asked that he re-true it. He said he would re true it but, since my frame was cracked, it wouldn't fit right on the bike. I told him the frame was in fact not cracked, to which he replied (with a smug look) "Sorry... your frame is cracked". I explained that it was, like other parts of the bike, part of the manufacturing process. He said something to the effect of "right, same thing. either way, your bike is falling apart and the wheel won't fit.

    Lets be clear here folks. There is a HUGE difference between an aluminum crack and a (perfectly straight) hairline separation from a manufacturing process.

    Anyways, hopefully I'll be picking it up this afternoon and hopefully he doesn't try to charge me for it... regardless of my fame's condition, the wheel should not have been returned to me in that condition.

    Enough venting...

    On to the questions...

    1. I've done some searching and can't find one situation where a pressed aluminum frame just falls apart at the joints. Have you guys ever heard of this?

    2. If my frame is so messed up, that the rear wheel cannot even be trued on it, how was I able to ride it for 10 miles the day before? (although my spokes were a little on the loose side, the wheel was fairly true and round)

    3. What about repairs? Can't I press the joints back together (assuming they have even separated) and weld/braze them for a permanent fix?

    I know... I just wrote a book. Sorry for the long post, I'm just hoping to get some insight from people who have been around the block a few times.


    Last edited by burgurboy; 03-29-12 at 11:12 AM. Reason: more pics!!

  2. #2
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    A cracked frame and out-of-true wheel are as unrelated as can be. He might have well have said your handlebar tape is worn and therefore he can't oil the chain.

    Answers to questions: Your frame is not 'pressed' it is 'bonded' - the tubes are essentially glued together. And, yes, these joints can fail over time, although many of those bonded Trek frmaes have lasted for decades without problems. Just because they can eventually fail, most of them do not eventually fail - in my experience, anyway.

    If your wheel is as badly out of true as you say, I would suspect one or more broken spokes. Also, if there are many loose spokes, even without any broken, the wheel needs to be retentioned by a compentant person - NOT someone who thinks that a cracked frame is somehow an impediment to haivng straight wheels.

    If there is some movement in the joint - the tube is moving relative to the jug - that would indicate the glue holding the joint together has failed. I don't know if it can be re-bonded. Welding is not advisable as it will seriously weaken the aluminum - the advantage of bonding over welding is that the tubes will not be affected by the heat of a weld. Welded alumium frames are heat-treated after welding to regain the original strength.
    Last edited by DCB0; 03-29-12 at 11:23 AM. Reason: Added more infor here and there in the post.

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    Thanks for the reply. It was definitely helpful. I'll do some more searching on these old bonded frames.

    The LBS made it sound like the bike will spontaneously combust next time I ride it...

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    Okay... I've doen a little more reading and have found some interesting things...


    these paint cracks seem to be pretty common on the old bonded treks. Some people advise throwing them in the trash, others just keep a close on them and make sure nothing actually comes loose. I have not found one instance of a catastrophic frame failure, falling apart in the middle of riding.

    I'm tempted to sand the bike down and have a friend weld the joints... From what i understand, that can weaken the surrounding area without heat treating but... could that really make it any worse than it is now?

    oh, the LBS never called back about my wheel either. I'll stop by tomorrow. I need to get this thing back together!
    Last edited by burgurboy; 03-29-12 at 09:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by burgurboy View Post
    The LBS made it sound like the bike will spontaneously combust next time I ride it...
    Oh, don't misunderstand me - if the glue has failed then you should not ride that bike. Riding with a cracked or unbonded or otherwise broken frame is a question of when, not if, it will come apart.

  6. #6
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Incompetent LBS didn't charge you the first time, I'd say you got off pretty easy. At that point I would've:

    a) never gone there again, and
    b) taken your rear wheel into a different LBS that will true it.

    Cracked paint happens. If you can tell that it's just the paint and not the joint you're fine. I had a 1989 Trek 1500 (bonded aluminum) that I rode pretty hard and it never gave me any trouble. I have not heard of many failures on these bikes, unlike the early carbon tubed bikes that have a reputation for failing at the joints.

    +1 Welding the joints will seriously weaken them. They were not welded for a reason, that's why they're bonded. If you wanted to weld the joints it would be possible but afterwards you would absolutely have to put the entire frame in an oven at the appropriate temperature for a certain time to reverse the effects of the welding and then let it cool at the appropriate rate. Otherwise, it could fail immediately. You would want to contact a materials expert about this.
    Last edited by FastJake; 03-29-12 at 09:57 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    Incompetent LBS didn't charge you the first time, I'd say you got off pretty easy. At that point I would've:

    a) never gone there again, and

    10-4 on that one. I just want them to fix the wheel they screwed up. I won't be paying for their screw-ups (at their shops or a different LBS).

    Hopefully everything goes smooth tomorrow when I go pick it up. after that... i won't be stepping in there anytime soon.

  8. #8
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Just check your frame for straightness. A tape measure, 48" straight edge, and a homemade plumb bob are all that is needed to determine if there are any huge problems with geometry. With the frame in a stand and the rear wheel off, do a little push pull on the stays to see if anything actually moves that shouldn't. A frame so distorted that a true wheel hits the chainstays should be obvious just eyeballing it.

    It was as crooked as can be, the tension on each spoke was different from the last, and the wheel was way out of round.
    This has nothing to do with the frame, this is a horribly untrue wheel. Put the wheel on a truing stand and give it a spin. True is true, independent of any problems with the frame. Once you have a properly true, dished and tensioned wheel, you will be able to see if there are any frame problems.
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  9. #9
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    Sound fishy that the guy in the shop would give you that kind of excuse. Yes, maybe he thought there were frame cracks, but I fail to see how the wheel became untrue when the bike went in with wheels that were at least ride-able. It's bad for the whole shop's reputation for that guy to misrepresent what must be the responsibility of the shop, at least from your description. Truing wheels in a shop is an exercise in -small- adjustments if the wheel is just touch trued while in the frame, and it's best done with tire/tube unmounted, hub bearings properly adjusted and then wheel put into a truing stand for round/true/dish if doing a more complete service at higher cost. For a rear wheel to lose its true and wobble that badly really doesn't speak well of the type of work that shop does.
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    I have an 86 Trek 2000 with what I think is an identical frame. It's in perfect shape as far as I know, although I do check for paint cracks now and then as an indication that the bonded joints might be failing. So far, no cracking; but I'll take a close look at the area you photographed.

    I've heard that paint cracking (it's Imron paint) is a sign of joint failure, but that might be just internet lore. Why not try to contact Trek? In the meantime - one thing you could consider would be putting some sort of fresh paint over the 'cracks' - maybe something you could remove later, or maybe a clear coat - and see if it cracks, too, after a ride.

    I wouldn't give up on that frame just yet - but I don't think cracks in the paint are simply "due to" the manufacturing process.

    I suspect you ended up with a wildly out-of-true wheel because the mechanic gave up partway through the process when he decided the frame was failing.


    UPDATE: I just checked, and my frame has no cracks in the paint (not even a chip); there's a barely detectable line at the point where your paint has apparently cracked. I did some Googling on "bonded aluminum" frames and found some posts from knowldegable people:

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/55...m-bike-frames/
    http://www.chainreaction.com/roadgeneral.htm
    http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/in.../t-175346.html

    Bottom line, these are excellent frames and there does not seem to be any history of failures. They definitely weren't "pressed together", but carefully bonded with a high-end cement with the intention of a long life. It is said that in some years Trek used paint which wasn't quite flexible enough, and it did eventually crack harmlessly at the joints. Yours might be such a case. The important thing to do is to measure the frame accurately and see if it's still true. A good shop can do this for you - yes, you can do it yourself but it's a tweaky process and you're looking for an authoritative answer..
    Last edited by jim hughes; 03-30-12 at 05:45 PM.

  11. #11
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Those bonded frames came out during my last year at Trek, when I was working as the warranty inspector (among other things). An alarming number of frames came back with cracks like your frame shows; we replaced them and investigated the returned frames. It turned out the cracks were only in the paint, as result of the epoxy in the joints being more flexible than the paint on top of the epoxy, causing it to crack. The joints themselves were fine. Later production used a reformulated paint that was more tolerant of the flexing.

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    You guys really do have a great forum here... very helpful.

    Its good to know that this is a very common problem and is most likely only a paint crack.

    Updates:

    I picked the bike up Friday from LBS #1. Surprisingly, they didn't try to charge me for the wheel... when I got home I realized why. The wheel was still untrue and not round. Not even close. Whatever. I'm done with that shop.

    I've now moved on to bike shop #2. They are family owned and have been around since the 50's. I walked in showed them the bike. He noticed the "hop" in the back wheel and said it was probably from the previous LBS over tensioning spokes. He said he could try to fix it but considering labor costs and the risk of breaking (already) over stressed spokes, it may be better to throw another wheel on.

    He walked to the back and came out with a (used, but much better(hardware-wise) )rim. He told me for $75 (at most) he would swap everything over to the new rim and true them both (front and rear).

    So that's basically:
    30 for rim
    12 for truing the front wheel
    30ish for the labor of swapping all the hardware over to the new rim.

    Itll be ready to pick up Tuesday

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Those bonded frames came out during my last year at Trek, when I was working as the warranty inspector....
    Do you know what year they made the paint switch? I think my 2000 might actually be from '87 (not 86 as I posted earlier) and it has no cracks; however it's been very lightly used.

  14. #14
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    I used to own that exact bike and am sorry to the day that I sold it. I used to sell Treks and never, that I can remember , had a catastrophic bonded aluminum frame failure. I agree that there were paint cracks, not frame cracks, although obviously cracks in the aluminum bonded tube joints could occur. Shop Number one did a horrendous job servicing you, and definitely killed the wheel. Seems like there are very few competent repair shops around anymore.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by burgurboy View Post
    He said he could try to fix it but considering labor costs and the risk of breaking (already) over stressed spokes, it may be better to throw another wheel on.

    He walked to the back and came out with a (used, but much better(hardware-wise) )rim. He told me for $75 (at most) he would swap everything over to the new rim and true them both (front and rear).
    Noooooooooo! Is that an Araya CTL-370 rim you had on there? If so, one of the lightest clincher rims from the 80s. I would hate to have it replaced by some different, heavier rim that doesn't match the front.

    Worse case scenario all the spokes need to be replaced, but that's only $32-36 in parts plus the labor. The shop probably does not want to bother with the labor of tensioning/replacing spokes and would rather just sell you a different wheel.

    If nothing else, make sure they give you the original wheel back.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    Noooooooooo! Is that an Araya CTL-370 rim you had on there? If so, one of the lightest clincher rims from the 80s. I would hate to have it replaced by some different, heavier rim that doesn't match the front.

    Worse case scenario all the spokes need to be replaced, but that's only $32-36 in parts plus the labor. The shop probably does not want to bother with the labor of tensioning/replacing spokes and would rather just sell you a different wheel.

    If nothing else, make sure they give you the original wheel back.

    funny story.... it wasn't actually the original rim. The "new" one matches the front (original) much better. That's a good idea either way though, I'll definitely ask for the old one when I pick it up.

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    update!!!

    Hey guys,

    Got my bike back today from bent's shop in lakeland FL http://bentscycling.com/index.html </ shameless plug>

    They did a great job. The mechanic said he went home later and did a little research of his own on the "trek paint crack phenomenon" and arrived at the same conclusion. No big deal. I also shared what JohnDThompson said and he thanked me for the info. Now he'll know in the future.

    They charged me $67 out the door for the new wheel, installation, and truing of both wheels. It was a very smooth transaction, everyone i dealt with there are great people. I'd recommend them to anyone.

    The bike rides like new. Smooth as butter.

    I want to thank this forum again too. You guy's are great!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    Noooooooooo! Is that an Araya CTL-370 rim you had on there?
    You'll be happy to see this...



    however... I'm a little confused. This was not the used rim that they showed me saturday. it Does however, look like a new hub. I took it in with an old suntour hub and now it's got a shimano 600 hub.

    Odd...
    The guy told me he would just throw the new wheel on but, it looks like he built a "hybrid" from both.

    Doesn't make a whole lot of sense...

  20. #20
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Well, I think you got a great deal from the 2nd shop. I hope they can stay in business charging peanuts for a job like that.

    Many shops tend to steer away from labour-intensive jobs like this because they can sell you a pre-built wheel with decent parts like 600-hubs and mid-range Sun/Araya/Matrix rims for $120-150/set. Takes less time (5-10 minutes to true & tension wheels), higher profits and the customer gets new equipment at a decent price.

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